Board, Advisors & Team
Mara Kassoff, Treasurer
As an early supporter of Embodied Jewish Learning, Mara is thrilled to be on the founding board of directors to support the growth of this important Jewish wellness work. Mara is the Deputy Director for Exhale, a national organization dedicated to creating a social climate where each person's abortion experience is supported, respected, and free from stigma. With her passion for creating safe space for dialogue, combined with her deep belief that social change is possible through sharing authentic, personal narratives, Mara is committed to the provision of much needed services that support post-abortion healing. Mara has an MBA from the American Jewish University and over 15 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. A former COO, Mara is also a skilled facilitator and informal educator, having taught workshops and trainings on topic areas such as organizational development, budgeting, program design, and youth empowerment models. Her previous employers include Jewish LearningWorks, Jewish Vocational Services, The American Jewish University, and United Synagogue Youth. She is an advisor to, and has served on the board of directors of, About-Face, an organization that promotes body positivity and equips girls and women with tools for combating harmful media messages.
Gavriel Strauss, Board Member
As a creative leader in progressive Jewish education and spiritual practice, Gavriel is overjoyed at the opportunity to serve as a founding board member of Embodied Jewish Learning. Gavriel is the founder and director of Evolving Judaism, an organization committed to the development of Jewish spiritual practice as a means of personal and collective transformation. Gavriel is also a Spiritual Counselor and Transformation Coach who supports people in healing the barriers to accessing and actualizing their full potential. He recently left his position as Director of Youth and Family Programs at Chochmat HaLev in Berkeley, CA where he developed an innovative new Havurah and Family Learning program called The Urban Shtetl. He now lives with his wife and baby daughter in Southern Ontario Canada.
Barbara Sinton Wilson, Board Chair
Barbara Sinton Wilson, a proud fourth generation secular Jew in San Francisco, is passionately committed to Jewish continuity and to engaging unattached young Jewish people. Her extensive education and training informs her Jewish youth organizing work and philanthropic activities in pursuit of this goal. Educated and trained as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (equivalent to a Masters level degree in Community Health Nursing), Barbara has been active with multiple community health and advocacy organizations. She co-founded The Election Integrity Women Donors Network, The Jewish Teen Alliance, and Youth Quest, a San Francisco city-wide community service program for children. Barbara is particularly inspired by how Embodied Jewish Learning responds to the needs and interests of our millennial generation by supporting them in balancing their hectic lives and by the unlimited intergenerational potential for connecting Jewish learners to the wisdom of their tradition, to their roots, and to one another.
Deb Fink, Secretary
Deb has helped to shape the vision of Embodied Jewish Learning since 2001 when she participated alongside Julie in educator fellowships at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and the Bureau of Jewish Education. She has continued to serve as an advisor, colleague and sounding board for EJL as it has grown and evolved. With a Masters of Education in Counseling, extensive advanced Jewish study, and over 20 years of experience in a variety of Jewish educational environments, Deb now serves as the Director of Family Education and Engagement at Jewish LearningWorks in San Francisco. Deb is dedicated to engaging families in a way that is relevant, experiential and meaningful while deepening their connections to community. As a practitioner of Vipassana Meditation whose Jewish observance is traditional, Deb is passionate about opportunities that inspire others to uncover the spiritual sparks inherent in Jewish life and practice.
Karen Erlichman, Advisor
Karen Lee Erlichman, D.Min, LCSW provides psychotherapy, spiritual direction, supervision and mentoring in San Francisco, employing a mind-body-spirit approach to healing. She has completed Level I training in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, a somatic approach to therapy that integrates mindfulness and body-centered resources to support healing. Karen works with clients of many genders, religions and spiritual practices, races and cultures. Karen is a senior consultant for Ethics of Care and Resource Development with The Dinner Party and the People’s Supper, as well as a faculty member in the Jewish Spirituality D.Min program at the Graduate Theological Foundation. She completed Facilitator Preparation Training with the Center for Courage and Renewal under the leadership of Parker Palmer. Karen is passionate about creating diverse and welcoming spaces for exploring spirituality, social justice and community. Karen’s writing appears regularly on her own blog, and has been published in numerous journals, blogs and anthologies, including Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction, Zeek, Tikkun, Sh’ma and in the interfaith anthology Spiritual Guidance Across Religions.
Benjamin Schick, Advisor
Benjamin Schick is the President of Strozzi Institute, the original architect of Embodied Leadership, a unique approach that combines the latest in neuroscience, holistic practice, action-oriented communication and mindfulness. Ben is a seasoned executive for purpose-driven ventures that include first Executive Director of Challenge Day, an internationally critically acclaimed youth violence-prevention and social emotional program for middle and high schools that was showcased on Oprah and then became the centerpiece for MTV’s “If You Really Knew Me”; nine years as the CEO of MediaOne Services, the largest independent broadcast and video production hub in Northern California, serving brands such as NBC, Google, Climate Alliance, San Francisco Giants, and ESPN; and Program Director for the Pachamama Alliance’s Up to Us program, a global transformational educational initiative creating a critical mass of people who embrace a radically new worldview of an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet. Ben has worked for many years as an executive leadership coach and business consultant working with leaders and teams to enhance their communications, leadership and productivity so they can move to the next level of impact and success.He is a Strozzi Institute teacher trainee and has a MA in organizational development from Antioch University. He lives with his wife, Amy, and his son, Sam in Oakland, CA.
Meg Stewart, Graphics, Marketing & Web
Meg & Julie met through their time as colleagues at Jewish LearningWorks. After a 5-year stint in the bay area, Meg was ready for change and moved to the desert in Moab, Utah. She is currently working full time as the Moab City Art Director, organizing public art programs, classes and workshops for all ages as well as managing an arts center. In her spare time she designs websites, marketing campaigns, and logos while working with individuals and businesses to hone their branding. Meg is thrilled to work with Julie and support EJL.
Alix Emden, Technical Consultant
Alix provides technical support to Embodied Jewish Learning’s website and operations. She is based in the Bay Area and works with non-profit technology company, Medic Mobile as Operations Associate. She received a B.A. in Medicine, Health, and Society from Vanderbilt University with a minor in Studio Art. In her free time she likes to oil paint, practice yoga, and ride around San Francisco on her bike.